How to Stop Internet Radio From Cutting Out

By Jason Gillikin

Frequent buffering of Internet audio comes from low bandwidth or high processor use. Some corrections to the lag are within your control, but others aren't.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet radio receiving program (Windows Media Player, RealPlayer or other audio program)

Listening to a webstream of your favorite music on a low-bandwidth connection is like listening to a CD while an overeager toddler keeps jabbing the player's pause button: Sure, you'll hear all the music, eventually -- but the experience is decidedly suboptimal. When Internet radio cuts out on you, fix what you can while accepting that some problems defy easy correction by listeners.

Fix What You Can ...

Free Up Bandwidth

Many network connections allow a fixed amount of traffic; the more of your traffic that's dedicated to such tasks as video downloading or PC gaming, the less that's available for audio streaming.

Suspend Processor-Heavy Programs

Audio signal processing takes a modest but non-zero amount of processor resources to translate the data stream into your favorite tunes. Other programs -- even background tasks such as file indexing or cloud synchronization -- eat into available processor time. When your processor can't keep up, your audio stream stutters, so shut down other programs, focusing on the ones using the most CPU usage, to minimize the effect on your music.

Turn Off Real-Time Virus Checking

Real-time monitoring for most of the anti-virus programs for personal use subjects individual "packets" of data to inspection by the scanner. Although anti-virus checking is valuable, it can inadvertently hamper the speed by which your data stream hits your audio player, leading to occasional re-buffering. Add an exception for your streaming-audio program to bypass real-time filters.

Change Buffer Delays

Not all Internet radios support it, but if you increase the buffer delay, you can often sacrifice a slower start time for less interruptions during playback.

The stuttering effect for audio streams results from either a too-slow transmission of data to your device or too little processing time dedicated to translating the data stream into music. When your music player automatically pauses to prepare the next segment of audio -- a delay called buffering -- the listening experience diminishes. Some correction methods admit to straightforward resolution, including:

... Accept What You Can't

Some errors remain beyond your immediate control, including:

  • Slow connection between your PC and the streaming service's servers. When it's Friday night and everyone in your neighborhood is streaming Netflix at the same time, your pipeline to the broader Internet is constrained, but there's nothing you can do to fix it short of using some alternative mode of connection, like a smartphone hotspot. Likewise, for Wi-Fi connections that already experience heavy traffic.
  • High demand for the streaming service. If your favorite Internet radio station experiences stronger demand than its servers can accommodate, then every listener's connection will attenuate, possibly to the point that the music has to periodically pause to rebuffer. The problem is on the sending end, not the receiving end.
  • Underpowered hardware. Although most streaming services require only a modest amount of processing power, very old or very underpowered devices like ultra-cheap tablets could strain to process the audio stream even under ideal computing conditions.